Home > All Rhodes Lead Here(7)

All Rhodes Lead Here(7)
Author: Mariana Zapata

That seemed to be the story of my life: going to my aunt and uncle’s when my world fell apart. But as disastrous as splitting up with someone that I’d thought I’d be with for the rest of my life was, I’d known with my entire heart that nothing held a candle to losing my mom. That helped me keep things in perspective and reminded me of what was important.

I was so lucky to have my aunt and uncle. They had taken me in and treated me like I was theirs. Better, honestly. They had protected me and loved me.

And as if she had read my mind while we’d talked, she had griped, “Leo”—one of my cousins—“came over yesterday and helped me give that thief a one-star review for his new album. We set up your uncle an account and did the same. There were a lot of them too. Heh, heh.”

I loved them both so much.

“I talked to Yuki a week ago, and she said it deserved for someone to give it a big shit emoji instead of any stars,” I had told her.

In the background, my uncle, who wasn’t a big talker but was a big listener, called out, “I bet he and his momma are freaking out now that their golden goose is gone.”

I’d smirked.

Because I might know everything that happened had been for the best, but it didn’t mean I was a good person who wanted the best for her ex.

He was going to pay for what he and his mom had done. Eventually. I knew it. He knew it. It was just a matter of time before everyone else did. Kaden could find someone else to write his music for him… but he was going to spend an arm and a leg when, before, I’d done it out of love. For free.

Well, not really, but it could have been.

But whoever helped him wouldn’t let him take all the credit for their hard work. Not like I had.

My aunt had sighed and seemed to hesitate before saying, “Ora, I heard through Betty—do you remember Betty? The lady that does my hair?—Well, she said she saw a picture of him with that Tammy Lynn at an event recently.”

Something had ticked at the back of my throat at the mental image of the man I’d been in a relationship with for nearly half my life with someone else.

Now he could have pictures of himself taken with someone. Huh. That was convenient.

It wasn’t jealousy I felt. But… it was something.

The faint taste of bitterness had stayed with me during the rest of our conversation while my aunt had circled back around to talking about bear spray and blizzards and having to revert to cannibalism because people weren’t prepared in the mountains for a snowstorm.

I figured I could explain to her later just how “mild” of a winter Pagosa Springs got versus most other places, so she wouldn’t worry so much.

In the meantime, I had spent the morning deciding what I needed to do and in what order everything would be the most efficient. I needed to get cash for the rental, and even though I was financially fine for now with my blood money, it wasn’t like I had anything else to do. I also had a friend to visit.

Besides that, I needed more groceries because I’d eaten my last slices of turkey breast and cheese for breakfast and had nothing to eat for lunch or dinner. And since I was going to be here for a while and needed to make this place home, I might as well start chipping away at things that needed to be done ASAP.

Might as well get to it now.

Down the stairs and outside, I had to stop beside my car door. I’d driven in so late, I had missed the view of the surroundings, so I wasn’t ready for the landscape ahead of me. The pictures of the garage apartment had focused mainly on the inside; there had only been one of the building.

Back when we’d lived here, we had been closer into town, in the midst of the huge pine trees that made up so much of the national forest in and around the town. But I could remember that on the outskirts, it had been more desert-like. And that was the exact kind of scenery here. The bright greens and dense forests were predominant here in Pagosa, but the craggy beauty that came with being so close to New Mexico and the desert-like area was an exception. Scattered cedar trees and brush filled the hills around the house.

It was incredible in its own way.

I stood there for a long time, then finally looked around. The SUV was still parked there. That was it though, vehicle-wise.

But just as quickly as I glanced in that direction, I looked away. The last thing I needed was to risk the maybe Mr. Rhodes seeing me looking at his house, period, and think I was doing something he didn’t like. I didn’t need to get kicked out. I’d walk to my car with my eyes closed for the next month if I had to.

I was here for a reason, and I didn’t have time to waste since I wasn’t sure how long I’d really be staying.

I wouldn’t be staying if I didn’t give myself a reason to.

And that’s what got me sliding into my car and heading out, not totally sure I knew what I was doing but knowing I had to do something.

I waited until I got to way down the county road before looking up directions for the bank. I knew there was a branch in town; I’d checked to be on the safe side before coming. Five hours from Denver and four from Albuquerque, it was basically in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by small towns that even fewer people had ever heard of. There were two grocery stores, a few local banks and one major one, a tiny movie theater, and a pretty good amount of restaurants and breweries for the town’s size.

Considering how booked the rentals were, I should have expected how busy town would be. It wasn’t like I didn’t know that Pagosa Springs relied heavily on tourism. As a kid, my mom used to complain about all the tourist traffic at the height of summer, getting frustrated at the grocery store when we’d have to park at the back of the lot.

But the rest of my memories of Pagosa were cloudy. So much of it looked different; there were a ton more buildings than I remembered, but there was something about it that was still… familiar. The new Walmart was the exception.

Everything changed over time, after all.

Hope again flared in my chest as I navigated my way down the highway. Maybe it didn’t look totally like what I remembered, but there was enough there that felt… right. Or maybe I was just imagining it.

More than anything, this place was a fresh start. That was what I wanted. Sure, one of my worst memories had taken place here, but the rest of them—the best of them—overrode that.

Life in Pagosa had begun, and time was ticking.

The bank. Groceries. Maybe I could walk around and check out a few shops, see if anywhere was hiring or find a paper to look for ads there. I hadn’t had a normal job in over a decade, and it wasn’t like I had references I was willing to give anymore. Maybe I could stop by and see if Clara was working.

And if I had time, I could log on and give Kaden a one-star review too.

 

 

The small white sign in front of the shop said “HIRING” in bright orange letters.

Tilting my head back, I read the name of the business. THE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE. Peeking through the window, there were a ton of people inside. There were racks of clothes, and a long counter formed an L-shape across two of the opposite walls. Inside, there was a woman zipping around from side to side behind the counter, looking exasperated as she helped as many people as she could who were all pointing at signs mounted to the walls. The most I could read was something about rentals.

I hadn’t really had any expectations of what kind of job I could get, but after spending the last two hours ducking into one shop after another to explore, I was glad I didn’t have my heart set on anything. The only places with signs had been a fly fishing store—I hadn’t been fishing in years, so I didn’t even bother asking—a music store that had been playing a song I knew too well and I’d turned around and walked back out instantly, and a shoe store. Both employees that had been working at the time had been in the back arguing so loud I heard every word, and I hadn’t bothered asking for an application there either.

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